Tuesday was supposed to signal the start of the 2011-12 NBA season, the follow-up to a fabulous campaign marked by hating the Heat and diggin’ Dirk. The reason I know this: SportsCenter brought it up.
Actually, it wasn’t just brought up, it beat to death, a central theme in the Tuesday night shows. Highlights from last year’s opening night were shown – several of them and for not insignificant chunks of time. It was weird even in an era where entire networks (ESPN Classic) are dedicated to old games.
So while you may not like the NBA, and loathe that we’re bringing it up for the second day in a row, the SportsCenter institution needs the game, apparently.
I mean, have you watched the recent non-football editions?
They’ve tried to include more hockey. Nothing wrong with that. It’s an exciting sport (especially in the HD ratio that better fits the playing surface) worthy of more coverage than its current TV contract requires. Plus, Barry Melrose is glorious and Canadian. (Sidebar: I once sat by him on a media bus during the Stanley Cup in Edmonton. The oiled mullet, the baggy gangster suits, the brash persona, the unlit cigar – he’s larger than life in person.)
However, that’s not enough to carry show after show. The extended highlights from college basketball exhibitions Tuesday were more awkward than the recycled NBA clips. Even the people at those games didn’t care about them.
Meanwhile, Erin Andrews visits LSU. That was … whatever. She’s pretty; the Mad Hatter is quirky. We get it. That story has been told. A story about the synthetic marijuana issue would have been interesting, but that wasn’t on the menu. It just felt like Steve Levy and Scott Van Pelt – two of the best active anchors – were filling time.
Yes, there’s clearly a void. It seems that the NBA provides many worthwhile elements to the show, namely great highlights. Of all the things people complain about in regard to the Association, a lack of athleticism isn’t on the list. Players’ physical feats are universally understood and admired – we’ve all run and jumped before, just never like that – in a way that feats on ice can’t be. Plus, basketball highlights generally require less context because so many key plays result in resolution – a score.
Also, there’s no shortage of personalities (people love LeBron, people hate LeBron; either way they have an opinion) and recognition (no helmets, smaller surface).
Actually, maybe that’s the reason for the inclusion of those 1-year-old NBA highlights: The SportsCenter producers have come to the realization that their show is incomplete this time of year without pro hoops. If this lockout drags on long enough, maybe ESPN will get involved with the negotiations. That couldn’t be any more difficult than creating an entire network for one school (Texas) and would add far more spice to its signature show.
These are the things I think about while grinding on the treadmill at 11 p.m.